The Great Irish Famine of 1845–52 was the defining event in the history of modern Ireland. In proportional terms one of the most lethal famines in global history, the consequences were shocking: at least one million people died, and double that number fled the country within a decade.
The Curse of Reason is first and foremost a survey history of this great tragedy. In particular, the testimonies of four key contemporaries are used throughout to convey the immediacy of the unfolding disaster.
John MacHale, the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam;
John Mitchel, the radical nationalist;
Elizabeth Smith, the Scottish-born wife of a Wicklow landlord;
Charles E. Trevelyan, the assistant secretary to the Treasury.
Each brings a unique perspective, influenced by who they were, what they witnessed, and what they stood for. By counter-pointing the progress of the Famine with the experiences of these four individuals, we get an intimate and compelling portrayal of these hungry years. The book shows how misguided policies inspired by slavish adherence to ideology-the curse of reason-contributed to and worsened the effects of a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions.